Portarlington came into this opening fixture with a lot to feel positive about. With former Sri Lankan national coach Johan Taylor at the helm and a season at this level already under the belt, the midlanders will be looking to push on from last season’s successes.
The home side started the stronger and put together some good passing moves and in the 16th minute their pressure finally paid off as winger Ross Doyle took advantage of some good space produced by his centres and crossed in the corner.
Wicklow missed an opportunity to get on the scoreboard with a penalty on 22 minutes and they never really threatened their host’s line in the first half.
The Port lineout was impressive with hooker Colm Dowling showing good accuracy in windy conditions and flanker Joander Brazon, thanks to some excellent lifting, winning clean ball effortlessly. The home side’s scrum was also very effective and the pack in general worked tirelessly to give good clean ball to scrum half Paul Mannion and his backs.
Just before half time, some good continuity from the home side allowed them to draw the Wicklow defence out of position and the always eager Paul Mannion found a gap and made 30 yards before man of the match Brazon showed great hands to pick up a lose ball and beat two tackles to score. At half time Port’ lead 10-0.
The second half continued along the same lines but the Port backs will feel that they didn’t make the most of the possession that they had. Second rows Alex Mihajlovic and Hugh Emerson were outstanding in the tight and with back row players Brazon, Mark Petriu and brothers Philip and Richard Dowling carrying well it seemed likely that Port would score again.
However, against the run of play, it was Wicklow who scored next and as they piled some pressure of their own on their hosts and when the referee signalled a penalty advantage under the posts the ball was worked wide, recycled and then the Wicklow scrum sniped from the ruck to score out wide.
Despite some further pressure from Wicklow, the Port side kept their composure under captain James Hyland and they continued to create chances. The visitors defence stood strong but on 70 minutes winger Ronan Mannion proved hungriest when he pounced on a lose ball to set up full Back Chris Ryan for the third try.
The bonus point was secured eight minutes later when club President Padraig Maree showed good composure to cut in from the wing when under pressure and offload to out half Kieran Hyland who showed great athleticism to stretch for the line and score. Wicklow then scored a consolation try in the final minute which their resolve probably deserved but ultimately they left pointless.
South African native Johan Taylor will be happy with the result and will go into next weeks visit to Ashbourne feeling that there is a lot more to come from.
Caption: Paul Mannion and Joander Brazon break on the way to Port’s second try